Military Detention Facility:
Ten mutants, a mix of X-Men and allies sat around a large office, waiting impatiently as several high ranking generals discussed what was to be done with Sabine who was being watched on a closed circuit screen that observed her cell. "This couldn't have happened at a worse time," Northstar sighed, "they're obviously still shaken from the invasion by Khan. Only being X-Men ourselves keeps them being civil to us."
Psyche looked at the generals who furtively glanced over then went back to their conversation in some Asian dialect. He was right. But if they wanted to rescue Warren, they needed their cooperation. "I don't envy Viper having to balance all of these disparate personalities as well as rebuilding a war torn country. The stress alone couldn't have happened to a nicer girl."
"Still nothing on the psionic rapport?" Iceman asked worriedly, it had been almost four hours since Archangels' abduction and she glanced at Carlos Allegra, who sat calmly on a bench. His eyes flickered open and then he subtlety shook his head.
"No, Bobby. We thought that maybe Carlos would be able to get through because of his abilities. But nothing. We do think that he's alive..we have a sense of that, as if we'd know if he were dead." "Ok, so we have to go on the concept that he is alive and that all of this was staged to bring the X-Men here, specifically this team since you were only a stones throw away in Tokyo," Shadowcat nodded.
"You're saying that we blundered into this?" Psyche snapped.
"It's happened to the best of us. When I was in the X-Men, it happened more than I like to remember. Where we thought one thing and got surprised in an entirely different way," Shadowcat shrugged neutrally. "At least she hasn't called us "X-Babies"," Magma sneered, no love lost between her and Kitty Pryde. The growing up competitive roles of which team to be on had caused a divide between Shadowcat and the New Mutants, even though they had been older than her.
"My sword could try and track Archangel," Nemesis said out of the blue and she unsheathed it, holding it up. Several of the generals actually jumped and stepped farther across the room as if an attack had already begun. Nemesis ignored them and focused, shimmering yellow sparkles swirling around the sword. Finally she shook her head then admitted. "I'm sorry for getting everyone's hopes up. It could sense his soul, so yes, I concur he is alive but not his location."
Shadowcat perked up. Soul? Sword? No, that was impossible. Her best friend Illyana Rasputin was dead and buried. It was just the slight shock she still felt whenever she looked at Peter and thought of his father and the fact that Nemesis wore a mask that covered her entire face. Not to mention the costume and cloak. She would be hard pressed to even guess her racial or cultural background from the tightly enunciated words the woman rarely spoke.
Sabine is waiting. Playing chicken as it were, Carlos said telepathically to Psyche. He felt her pull back slightly from his mind's touch and he chuckled within, his neutral expression never changing across the room from her. Danielle, in order to access the power we needed, we are bound. When there is time I will explain exactly why. Until then-
You're a Hellfire goon, I don't trust you.
I am far from a goon, young woman.
This time she actually saw him grin slightly across the room.
Half the fun of this rapport will be showing you things about myself and even yourself that you couldn't possibly comprehend. Back to Sabine, can you feel the calm from her? It? Sabine is no more a prisoner to those energy coils they have her locked up in than a bird in the sky.
Sabine did aid the Marauders in several bank robberies and then killed them. She has to be punished by these people. I can see their reasoning in not wanting to give up a symbol of anarchy to us. Every mutant with the power of super sneezing would be razing the island in a week. They have to stay firm on Sabine, on holding her.
But we can't wait any longer, can we?
No, I feel not, my rapport with Worthington is new. An off ramp connected to the main highway of ours but if you'll let the metaphor stand, the cement of his road is crumbling to dust in front of my mind's eye. Whatever is being done to him is not killing him exactly but it is changing him.
I know. I have this deep sense of revulsion. Almost like part of me is with him and appalled by what's going on.
I think our problem with Worthington is deeper than that; the three of us are a triumvirate psychically until it is broken. Whatever depths he is pulled to, will send shockwaves through our minds as well. Like a tidal wave flowing along the off ramp of Warren in the opposite direction; we will get majorly soaked on our "road". Our lives are in peripheral danger to his.
What can we do? If something happens to him?
I will be frank, Danielle. I will not die because of him. I will sever our connection to him, minimize the psychic trauma. I fear though that you will be deeply hurt both emotionally and mentally by it, as you've been connected longer. I have.distance from the situation.
Yes, I can see that clearly in your mind.
"Jean-Paul, I just want to thank you for what you did for me back there. When I was hurt," Iceman said awkwardly to Northstar.
"Emma Frost is correct, there is much to explore with your abilities that you have been remiss in doing. You are welcome though. But truly show your gratitude by becoming better. We need your full capabilities, not your weaknesses."
"Hey, Jean-Paul, could you get the pole out of your ass for a second, I'm trying to be nice here," Iceman grunted.
Northstar opened his mouth to snap back then shook his head. "I am sorry, Drake. I'm tired and frustrated. I am glad that my experiences with my sister, Aurora's identity issues, were able to help you."
"Wow. Was that humanity peaking out from under that bitchy attitude?" Iceman grinned. "I mean bitchy purely as a shot at your sexuality."
"Yes, Drake, even I have my weaknesses, such as giving a damn. I'm working on getting rid of it. So far it only tends to attract men who have identity issues," Northstar smiled thinly. "You must be worried about Warren, having been friends so long."
"Ouch. Nice switch of topics from you to someone else. We'll shelve the therapy for later. Yeah, a lot has happened to him in just the past few months. Losing Psylocke, being put in charge of a team, then being hurt by Channel. I know you were possessed too but he has a lot of deeper issues with that from Apocalypse toying with him."
"It wasn't pleasant but I can imagine that the violation was even more intense for someone who was so thoroughly altered before. He must be in Hell now."
Warren was in Heaven.
He'd never been so happy before, felt so alive, so in tune with himself.
"How do you do that? Just by touching me?" he asked Meridian who was seated on a couch next to him.
"I'm a mutant like you. But my power is power. I can copy and reproduce any mutant ability into another mutant. Or mutant potential. Which is how I "built" Sabine," she answered freely. "I can't use the powers much myself but the small ones, the tiny mutations like the touch of joy seems to be something I can do."
"I can see why you guard your anonymity so viciously. There are dozens if not hundreds of people I can name off the bat who would kill to possess you," Warren nodded. While he felt the joy, he didn't feel like she was trying to control his mind or even influence his decision about what she had whispered to him.
The curtains parted into the salon where they sat, no windows to indicate whether it was night or day and a slim woman entered. Warren was unsure at first then he made the connection.
"Yes," the slim brunette nodded.
"She is a mutant. The one you see before you is the prime host to the others. The two your colleagues are with is but a facsimile. We need Sabine with us," Meridian explained.
Warren was starting to feel uneasy, he had agreed to her plan because of what she knew about him but he wasn't sure that he could trust her not to have an ulterior agenda within even her own plans.
"Again, Warren, you have my oath of safety. Sabine is merely a conduit, as I said before the power I will transfer to you, I cannot manipulate but I have invested Sabine with abilities to help you."
"And what do you get out of this, Sabine?" Warren asked.
"The pleasure of service to the future," Sabine answered then began to slowly unbutton her jacket and skirt. Meridian threw off her cloak revealing her lush nakedness.
"I don't mean to sound crude, but the two of you could teach Magneto a thing about being super villains," Warren laughed as each woman slipped into an outstretched arm.
"Not all power should be done in pain or malice. Pleasure, sex, passion are also viable ways of sharing," Meridian whispered and her mouth fell upon his, insistently.
Carlos stumbled for a moment then looked across the room and Psyche was clutching a desk for support.
"What's wrong, Chief?" Paulie asked.
"Maybe her arms are still hurt?" Peter asked.
"No, not pain. It's Warren. Something is being done to him. Something that is altering him," she said through gritted teeth. Her every fiber wanted to hiss in ecstasy, writhe in carnal pleasure and she could feel the same need from Carlos but there was no way to publicly explain this to the others.
Nemesis lifted her sword again, "Whatever force was blocking me before is waning. It cannot do whatever is being done and block Warren from my sight any longer." "What's being done to him?" Shadowcat asked. "Contact Gateway...I'm starting to get a fix on him," Psyche said through gritted teeth and Carlos crossed the room in a quick stride and kept her standing with a firm grip on her arm. "Oh, God!" she muttered. She buried her face in Carlos' chest so that no one could see the unrestrained rapture on her face. "Sabine," he said to the others, sensing something happening and to cover Psyche's embarrassment. His mental distance from Worthington was allowing him a buffer from the intensity of the thrill but part of that was holding Danielle. He was using his attraction to her to distract from whatever pure sexual heat was flowing through their rapport. The X-Men looked at the monitors where sure enough the young woman was glowing fiercely. Nemesis shook her head then waved her sword through the air. "We've been fools. Sabine was not left behind to kill us but to act as a block to prevent us from tracking Warren. He's not being blocked at his end, Sabine is enveloping us in some sort of neutral field from here!"
"Kitty! Jean-Paul!" Psyche said firmly, Carlos's touch, his very presence seemed to renew her psychic wall, to give her the strength to focus beyond Warren's overwhelming psychic waves. She was secretly amazed at how much deeper her connection to Carlos was in such a short period of time. "On it," Shadowcat grinned and had but a second to turn and then she was in Northstar's arms, hurtling towards the floor and walls, and phasing through effortlessly like mercurial ghosts.
"They sure have got that trick down pat, huh?" Iceman smirked and they all watched the monitor as the two X-Men sped through Sabine's cell walls, grabbed hold of Sabine and then sped out of the cell, the only indication of their exit, seconds later when an audible sonic boom was heard over the base.
"Kitty's phasing must keep her safe from the rigors of such fast travel," Paulie theorized. "Xavier is gonna flip his hair to hear about that power trick. His files are full of notes on everyone's possibilities." "I have him!" Nemesis said and her sword pointed due east.
Madripoor, Low Town,
Amongst the rag tag shacks and low-income tenements and dive bars back hall gambling dens and brothels, there was a small warehouse that had been copiously renovated several months ago. No one knew what the product in or out was, but it was Madripoor, post-war at that, so no one dared to pay attention. The windows had been painted black, the doors reinforced with padlocks and metal covers and armed guards sat attentively around the perimeter twenty-four hours a day.
Drugs, weapons, nuclear material, no one knew for sure but the speculation had come and gone quickly as things of a suspicious nature were want to in Madripoor.
"I mark twelve guards."
"Fast and furious, no mercy, guys, we know what could be in there," Psyche said over her comm link and a moment later the X-Men sprung into action. Shadowcat phased up through the concrete and snatched two guards back through it, not giving them enough time to take a deep breath so that they passed out from the lack of oxygen and fright in a minute. Northstar sped by, snatching up two more, disarming them, destroying their walkie talkies and leaving them five miles away on the coast before they even had a chance to register what had happened. Carlos came walking out of the night fog, his coat rustling and violently whipping through the air, distracting the two men who were about to raise their weapons when they felt the press upon their minds and lost consciousness. Two others squawked and vomited as their brains seized from iron deposits, under the Peter's skillful manipulation. Two more guards fell unconscious, their insides sapped of moisture so quickly that they collapsed from Iceman's vicious attack. Nemesis fluttered down from the sky and stabbed the remaining two guards with her sword, no blood drawn but an electrical shock rendering them both insensate.
The crack of the sonic boom above signaled that the next phase had begun and a moment later, Paulie, propelled by Northstar, came rocketing through the sky and smashed through the roof. The ground below simultaneously trembling as Magma and Psyche burst forth from the ground within an earthen cocoon.
The rest of the X-Men came in through the other doors to find them selves in a vast salon. Pillows cast about, in the center of the warehouse a circular bed at least twenty feet in circumference, Warren strewn unconscious on it. As they cautiously stepped closer they could all see that his feathers were scattered along the plush carpeted floor. Stepping even closer, they saw larger clumps far from his back on parts of the mattress. The smell, of sweat and passion expended, wreaked from him and the bed.
Psyche leaned down by the bed, her psi senses reaching out to Warren and finding him asleep, his mind lost to a pleasurable haze.
"It looks like a scene from Caligula," Northstar murmured.
"Yo, it smells like a scene from Debbie Does Dallas!" Paulie grunted.
"What did they do to him?" Peter asked.
"My, my, they didn't mention sex in the Beyond?" Magma chuckled then stopped when a sharp glance from Psyche shot her way.
"We have a serious problem here," Carlos said, he was at the other side of the bed carefully examining both it and Warren.
Psyche had clamped down hard on the psi rapport they shared, almost as hard as she'd made her face. She was torn between rage, pain and a dark jealousy that she didn't even like the thought of having. "What? What's the problem?"
"His wings. Look," Carlos said and gently moved Warren who began mumbling incoherently, it was obvious from his bare back that the feathers all over had once been his. But under him the skeletal structure of the wings lay separate.
"Holy shit!" Iceman gasped.
"My God!" Shadowcat said, putting her hands to her mouth, she and Iceman had been there twice before when Warren's wings had been badly damaged.
"They fucked his wings off!" Paulie surmised and for once no one chastised him because bluntly, he was right.
San Madre, Above South America:
Talisman had never extended her powers this far before. In the past hour the small town had risen almost ten thousand feet and was gaining speed. At first she'd thought it was the size that was preventing the town, now island, from actually achieving orbit then she'd realized it was her force field. Though it had collapsed to being only a hundred feet wider than the three mile circumference of the town, it was still fundamentally attached to the Earth mystically. She hadn't realized when she'd cast the spell that was a part of her anchoring and she was paying for it. Several times she'd choked up blood and her vision was blurring but she refused at the very core of her being to allow the Brood to get away with kidnapping five thousand innocent human beings.
In rage several times she'd called for more and more mystical power, more and more Spirits to aid her. She commanded it as the Chosen One, as the One spoken of before there was language. She didn't give a damn what these aliens wanted or thought they deserved, she would hold this town within Earth's atmosphere until reinforcements arrived or die trying.
"I never imagined she was so powerful," Spike said to Chamber and Nightcrawler. The three of them had taken refuge from the fight on the steeple of the local church. The best place to flee from if and when Talisman's bubble burst. The Brood horde seemed content to go back underground somewhere, presumably Frenzy and Karma their prisoners as they prepared to launch into space.
I don't think she did either, Chamber replied. I get psychic impressions of her. Awe. Strength. Fear. She acts older and self- possessed because of the spirits she's in contact with but she's barely into her twenties and she can literally hear the world.
Hundreds of feet above them Talisman was glowing like a star, tendrils of energy visibly spiraling out from her to her force field and a long tendril to the Earth itself. Outside of the field they could still see Hunter's scout ship following them, ready to assist, as well as several military jets cruising by, bewildered as to what to do.
"She sent the call to the other X-Men, but I don't know why they haven't responded yet," Nightcrawler said.
"Ummmm, maybe because we're no longer where they would be looking for us at?" Spike laughed mirthlessly.
I don't think anyone will have a hard time finding us, Chamber laughed. I bet we make CNN again.
"We're X-Men, we always make CNN!" Nightcrawler added, their humor in the face of such danger almost giddy. He realized that they might soon be getting low on oxygen. His plan was to teleport them to Hunter's ship but he was loathe to leave without Frenzy and Karma. "Are you sure they're still alive? Johanna and Shan?" he asked.
Chamber nodded frantically. With everyone else gone all Brood, I can clearly sense them both. Alive and conscious. Somewhere below in the thick of the Brood. Remember they have the resin on them, they could hide in plain sight with the image inducer Frenzy had. I've been trying to mentally reach either of them but the Brood and Talisman's magicks are causing more static than my little bit of telepathy can pierce.
"Kurt, I don't want to leave them either but what choice do we have?" Spike said. "Liz can't hold us here for too much longer against a star drive trying to blast off."
"Perhaps we can still accomplish our original intent!" Nightcrawler said with a bright smile and vanished in a burst of brimstone.
"Oh, great, now our ride has left!" Spike grumbled.
"What happened?" Frenzy asked.
"The Brood. They attacked us and seemed to be able to injure Tran. He got us away but something is happening----!" that was when the ground had begun to tremble and then shake violently and the small town had ripped free of the Earth, rising steadily.
The door had shattered an instant later and Brood had flocked into the small room. Frenzy didn't hesitate as she snatched up the single metal framed bed and used it as a stop gap, sending several of the Brood back through the doorway. With her other hand she'd grabbed up Karma and the two of them had gone smashing through the wall. The leap three stories down had been nothing compared in terms of a shock to Shan. The sight of hundreds of Brood coming out of buildings and then fixing on them, that was shocking. Thinking quickly, Frenzy flicked on her image inducer. She'd reprogrammed it in her down time especially for a moment like this, the image of a flash of teleportation. Within that instant, she'd grabbed Karma and run into another building, the image truly being cast over them a reflective chameleon effect of the surroundings then another switching to cover them in the illusion of being Brood.
Even Frenzy was impressed by what she'd been able to push the Shi'ar enhanced technology to do in a pinch. Being such a physically large woman people often expected that her sole abilities lie in strength and brown but Frenzy had studied both technical and clandestine arts to survive the past few years as a renegade mutant.
That escape had been over three hours ago, and they were still huddled in the attic of an abandoned house. As far as they could tell the Brood had all gone and gathered somewhere when the town began to lift off.
"We won't leave you, Johanna," Shan promised. "Tran and I are agreed on that."
"Thanks but you might have to. This place taking off like this means the others have failed, we'll need someone to go for help and you're the best suited," Frenzy chuckled, watching the town lift meter by meter from the Earth from the small window of the attic. She could make out the barest shimmering of what must've been Talisman's force field but it was obvious that they were picking up speed. Occasionally several military jets would sail past the force field, making idle threats, she was sure. Her experience with the military was that they threatened but couldn't do much, especially when paranormals were involved.
"Do you hear that humming?" Shan asked and Frenzy shook her head. "I think its mental then, the Brood are up to something. Something bad. I feel this compulsion, almost like possession to go to the middle of town."
If she hadn't seen a thousand unspeakable things, Talisman would've been shocked at what was literally bubbling up from the town center. Hundreds of Brood bodies, spiraling upwards with two figures astride. Two figures in white robes.
"I am the Holy Mother," the thin white woman said calmly to Talisman, hundreds of feet above the ground, standing literally on the backs of hundreds of alien monsters.
"I am the Mother," the male figure said almost in unison.
"No offense but amongst other problems, you have gender issues," Talisman smirked. She needed to say something to take her mystical senses off of the sheer radiance of their power. To her eyes they were like ever wattage-increasing light bulbs, though it was apparent they were draining the energy from the townspeople below that had been transformed into Brood.
"You are a humorous young woman. Powerful as well. I have come to ask you to remove your barrier so that we may bring our Holy Mission to those of our kind who have been lead astray by the Brood Queen," the woman smiled politely, making the whole exchange even more surreal.
"I'd love to, Holy Mother, but those people you're draining for power are Earthlings, not Brood. You free them, I'll help boot you directly to the Brood Queen. Until then, they do not leave. I will not allow you to kidnap people for batteries!" Talisman vowed, realizing that part of her voice was resonating with power. Almost as if the very spirits she commanded were voicing their disgust at the Brood. Was she in some way not only mistress but a conduit for the spirits of....everything?
"We can crumble this shield," the male warned but Talisman could see almost a trickle of fear in his words. He was human. More human than his female counterpart she was sure. Something about him suggested that he wasn't as dangerous as the woman he had aligned himself with.
"I can rain death and destruction down on you. Hard or easy. How we do this is up to you," Talisman said fiercely, whispering several spells at once, her hands erupting with eldritch energy.
The female Holy Mother's eyes focused on Talisman again. Taking her measure then she beamed a glorious, imperial smile and viciously spat out.
An instant later both figures were consumed back into the Brood column and vanished.
Talisman braced herself for the column of Brood to attack but they simply slowly receded back towards the floating town and then she sensed the power build up. To the naked eye it looked like the town center was exploding but to her she saw the coruscating force bound for her shield.
No, not her shield.
"X-MEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!" Talisman screamed in terror.
In a brilliant flash of light, the X-Men came out of Gateway's portal from Madripoor and back onto the cliff that overlooked the Sanctuary base. Carlos helped a groggy Warren stand, covered in the Black Bishop's long coat. The team was both grim and silent. A second battle inconclusive, with one of their own changed.
"Ok, it's too friggin' hot here!" Paulie groaned as he shielded his eyes and looked down at the base.
"I second our resident diplomat's opinion," Bobby joked nervously, he'd been trying to keep his eyes off of Warren, who he was worried about. He could see that Dani was upset too though probably for a host of different reasons.
Danielle? Carlos pressed telepathically.
I don't want to talk about anything. To anyone.
Leave her alone, Carlos, Warren replied wearily.
If she would take a moment to look at your memories, she would see that you were coerced by a high-end telepath.
You can see my memories. Wonderful. Even I'm having a hard time remembering what happened since the fight with the Marauders. And as for Dani, she likes having an iron lip, she's not interested in the truth.
Great Spirits! Will I never have a moment of mental peace again? Hell is obviously having two men with a psi link to!
I didn't ask for this rapport either, Danielle.
I do not like the rapport with either of you. In fact, I'm not liking either of you at the moment. So get the hell out of my head! Dani raged and then slammed shut her psi barriers.
Warren sighed and psi spoke to Carlos. Thank you, Carlos. For trying to help. For helping the X-Men. I wasn't very kind to you in the beginning. However you got sucked into this rapport, it's letting me see you too. See that your intentions aren't as dark as I'd originally pegged you for.
Understood, Warren. I am a member, willingly, of a group you have only encountered as enemies. And this rapport...it was an inadvertent battlefield co-joining. I did not realize that my..abilities would act in such a way.
Testing the boundaries, looking deeper into his compatriot, Warren found something. The Beast? What is that? I keep getting vague impressions of concern from Dani about it. And there's something at the end of our rapport, the edges, like down a hallway that you won't let either her or I see. Exactly what the heck is in you, Carlos?
It is a burden that I never thought I would willingly be able to share with others. I must meditate on what I am to do; my purpose has shifted radically from being Lady Amara's guard to having a vested interest in your X-Men.
You seem more worried about that than the fact that we have a decidedly intimate trois going on here, Warren laughed.
Danielle is young and not as worldly as you and I. From some of your memories I can see that you have tasted of multiple fruits at once as well. I would think that you would be much more upset at the loss of your wings? Carlos shared several images and memories of nights spent in the arms of more than one lover at a time, the ability to lose one's self to passion. Between the two men, both men of privilege, there was an understanding that pleasure came in many forms, forms that those not born into and raised in luxury had never experienced the decadence of.
At the thought of his wings, Warren felt a supreme ambivalence. He'd been injured before, hurt and had the appendages amputated, plunging him into a suicidal depression. In fact he had committed suicide over the loss of them at one point. But now, the weight noticeably gone from his back, the gentle rustle of the wings along his body, the secure knowledge that he could take afloat at any moment didn't dispirit him. In fact he felt like he'd done something incredible, something beyond noble and the price had been his wings. But somewhere within those hazy memories he felt like he'd been keenly aware of making a trade, of gaining far more than he had lost. His thoughts to Carlos were measured, but the emotional feeling of serenity behind them was evident.
I am and I'm not. I'm not sure if it's leftover effect from Meridian's power but I remember her saying that it was an exchange. An exchange for something greater. It's like a drunken dream. Bits and pieces floating in and out.
We need Danielle to help us sort through your memories. Together we can do it. However she needs to separate her feelings about your sexual entanglement with Meridian and the other Sabine. And of course the fact that you thoroughly enjoyed it.
Both men laughed darkly within their rapport, smiles creeping onto their faces.
"I find the heat to be glorious!" Amara laughed. "I wish you could all feel the purity of the earth here. The strength in it!" She twirled around, flames licking her body and a lava geyser lifted her a hundred feet into the air so that she could survey the land.
"Thank God she's not a show-off," Paulie grinned up at Amara.
"If you'll excuse me, I have to go to my quarters," Nemesis said curtly, nodded and then was airborne heading towards the far side of the town.
"Social thing, ain't she?" Kitty grumbled.
"She's always been rather standoffish. Having a hideous appearance under that mask tends to do that to a woman," Northstar answered.
"Wow, so she never takes her mask off?" Peter asked.
"No. But though an odd addition, I expect she'll make a valuable one to the team."
"How about you, Jean-Paul? I haven't seen you and Liz since that shindig with Loki in Canada, remember?" Kitty asked.
"Yes, yes, I do. You've certainly grown and matured since then. I almost didn't recognize you," Jean-Paul admitted, the young woman he'd met before had dressed so seriously but this one had a blazen, almost daring attitude. He wasn't sure if it was just her being a young adult in full bloom or who Kitty had ben growing to be inside.
"I'd recognize you in the dark with a bag over my head!" Paulie chuckled and Kitty rolled her eyes at him.
"Every team needs a leech," Bobby said and jabbed a thumb at Paulie.
Northstar suddenly froze in place.
"Are you okay, Northstar?" Peter asked to no response. "Is being perfectly still one of his super powers?"
"No, it's not," Kitty said waving her hand in front of his face but Jean Paul didn't even blink.
Behind them they heard the tell tale crack of Gateway's bola swinging and when they looked back, the silent Aborigine seemed as surprised as they were that his bola was twirling of it's own accord.
"X-MEN!!!" an image of Talisman burst from out of Northstar's face and from her mouth shot energy tentacles of light into each one of them, no matter how near or far.
"Talisman! What's going on?!" Danielle shouted as she saw Magma and Nemesis being yanked from hundreds of feet away towards Gateway's portal.
"Guess it's not a two way line, huh!" Paulie grimaced as they were all dragged towards Northstar who was flying into Gateway's portal. A moment later all of the X-Men were gone.
"Welcome, X-Men!" Alex said as he made his way to the top of the ridge holding several bottles of champagne. He looked around in bewilderment at the visibly trembling Gateway and the distinct lack of X- men. "IT?"
"Yes, Alex? They were here but it seems that they left rather abruptly. I can replay the monitors to show exactly what happened," the intelligent hologram appeared and answered politely.
"That would be best, I suppose," Alex mumbled. "Now I know how the Avengers' Jarvis feels."
"You don't look like the kind of man who has ever served," a silky feminine voice whispered and then in a flash of light, Emma Frost appeared from a portal Gateway had opened.
"I was expecting Xavier," Alex said bluntly.
"And I was hoping to be taller but alas, we must all deal with what we have in life," Emma sighed. She stood seductively in a thin white strapless dress, camisole and beach hat blowing in the wind. "It is dreadfully hot out here, Monsieur Rosten. Let's go inside the facility that I'm to be reviewing and I'm sure by the time the X-men return, we'll be as good as old friends."
"Your reputation precedes you, Ms. Frost. I doubt we'll ever be old friends," he said coolly, a little taken aback by the disappearance of the X-Men and Emma's obvious lack of concern.
"Then let's work hard to make you are one of the few to have survived an encounter with me?' she retorted sharply. "Is that Cristal?"
San Madre, Argentina:
At first they were a little shocked at the sound, the high pitched scream, reminiscent of Banshee in a high falsetto. Then they realized it was Paulie. Appearing several thousand feet above a floating town was normal for several of them but it was his first time. Hence, the screaming.
Iceman acted immediately, firing a blast of ice around him and at the flying town to attach to, with that, he disappeared at one end and reformed his body at the other. Northstar blinked rapidly, his catatonia gone, saw what had happened, sighed and then speedily plucked his teammates out of the sky one by one and deposited Psyche, Warren, Carlos, Magma, Kitty, Peter and Paulie on the island in groups as Nemesis sailed under her own power.
"Ok, a floating island," Psyche snapped and then they all stumbled as the island ascended even faster. "Now what? Where is Talisman and the other X-Men?"
"The town itself is falling apart as well; we'll get no protection there!" Northstar shouted, having made a quick circling of the flying mass, over the harsh winds that were ripping along the edge of the island.
"We should go away from the edge, into the bush, we'll get better protection there," Warren ordered though falling wasn't his main concern. He'd noticed how thin the air felt and how chilled he was through his insulated costume. He wasn't quite sure how high up they were but soon the air pressure, lack of oxygen and cold would do them in.
"You said you saw a town, Northstar? We should make our way through the jungle towards it. If we can't find anyone there then we'll have no choice but to leave," Psyche hollered and waved her arms for them to follow. "How dangerous could a floating town be?"
As they parted the brush, a thousand Brood hissed, teeth bared and crashed into them.
"Oooh, I know, I know!" Paulie said sarcastically.
Magma panicked, shrieking in rage, firing lava bolts directly into the throng but the heat and fire caused the Brood to disperse and not press the weight of their numbers upon the team. Iceman thought fast and expanded his form into a barricade between himself and as many of the Brood as possible, though dozens still got through. Nemesis didn't hesitate to cut a swath through the aliens, standing steadfast in front of Peter, Warren and Carlos to protect them from the throng, all three men fighting the horde with their bare hands against the few aliens that got past her.
"I hope you have a good idea here," Shadowcat said, her hand firmly grasping Psyche's so that the attacking Brood harmlessly passed through them.
"The way Northstar acted I would say that it was Talisman that brought us here because she was in deep shit. I'm getting a big sense of a lot of magic at work here. Not just hers either, the Brood have cast some sort of spell," Psyche said.
"And this whole island is metal!" Peter yelled. "I can feel it permeating everything. New metal. Strong metal."
"I'm thinking this is a ship and they're heading home," Warren said as they moved closer to Shadowcat and Psyche, he was bruised and cut from the fight and for an instant he felt a mental concern from Psyche. Then she shut down their psi rapport firmly again.
"They're backing off now," Paulie said as they came closer to the edge of the island where they'd begun. "Seems like they don't want us getting any closer to their precious town."
"Which suggests a hive mentality or an individual controlling them all," Northstar agreed as he observed form above. Even if he flew closer, the Brood took to the air threateningly.
"This doesn't conform to Brood logic as a ship," Kitty said shaking her head. "They're parasites. They would leech onto something to get back home. Peter, can you sense energy around the metal or the shape of the overall shape of the metal?"
Peter closed his eyes and seemed to strain for a moment then spoke. "Circular. Intertwined with cables. It's through the circumference of the town. They dug trenches I think to lay it into the ground. It was lots of pieces. There are also lots of fiber optics within the metal, conduits to several power sources."
"Also as we're rising, we're tilting. I may not have my wings anymore more but I can feel spatial shifts still," Warren added.
"Tilting?" Paulie smirked.
"Tilting?" Shadowcat gasped. "Holy shit! We have a serious problem here! I think I know what they're doing, guys!"
"Is that so, child? What could you possibly know about anything?" Holy Mother asked as she came riding towards the X-Men on a wave of writhing, screeching Brood bodies. "We are immortal! We are transcendent! We are infinite!"
"You are a royal pain in the ass!" Talisman raged, soaring up onto the edge of the island, firing eldritch bolts at the approaching horde, her costume was torn and singed in several places and she had visibly been physically beaten. "Sorry, that I wasn't present when you guys arrived but this bitch blasted me a good one! It's payback time. Short story: Brood have taken over five thousand people. They want to take their bodies into space as Brood. I refuse to let that happen. The other X-Men in town were trying to disable their star drive. Disseminate and jump in!"
With that Talisman tackled Holy Mother and the two of them went tumbling through the air away from the X-Men. For a moment the throng of Brood soldiers hesitated then scurried back into the jungle, leaving the X- Men and following Holy Mother.
"There is no star drive. This is a Stargate!" Shadowcat corrected frantically. "They're just going to beam themselves home. And I have no idea what such a massive gate will do to the atmosphere around us much less this chunk of land or even the earth itself."
Warrens shook his head angrily, determined to solve at least one problem that the Sanctuary team encountered. "I've been through a Stargate before but it was much smaller, maybe twelve feet in circumference. This is miles. They're crazy! Ok, first order of business is to find Kurt's squad. Magma, Nemesis, find and back up Talisman. The rest of us will head towards the buildings in the town center."
"We have another problem, Archangel," Northstar pointed at the approaching military jets. "They're coming in on an attack vector to fire missiles!"
"Shadowcat and Northstar, take those missiles out, then get back here, we'll need Kitty's know how to disable this Stargate!" Psyche ordered.
"Done," Northstar said, snatching Shadowcat up into the air. "It seems as if we have developed quite the power stunt, you and I."
"Not many people seem to be used to not breathing as I am!" Shadowcat chuckled mirthlessly.
"That was very astute of you, figuring out the Stargate. This team could use someone of your expertise and level-headedness. Lord knows I can't keep being the voice of reason."
"No ego there. And I'm not sure I want to be in the superhero game," she admitted. "I just found Peter's son and we got swept up in Madripoor and the Marauders. There was no intention to get back into the game there."
"The way you look at him suggests that you'll stick around for awhile. I'm sure he's found what he's looking for in the X-Men," Northstar observed as they cleared Talisman's energy field and headed towards the circling jets.
"Way I look at him-----?" if her face weren't already red from sheer adrenaline she would've hidden the redness of it with her hands. Someone had noticed.
"I see things that move at imperceptible speeds. Body reactions. Glances. Handy in a nightclub but I can usually pick up on a person's "tells" in a few seconds. You're torn between mother-henning him and seducing the past."
"I really don't think-----," she gulped; they had crossed nearly three miles of airspace in less than a minute and were approaching the fighter jets.
"No, Kitty, you do think. As much as I loathe the suggestion and will seriously harm you if you repeat this, I've known you quite some time. Go for Paulie. At the very least you'll have fun, at the most you'll have the honor of turning him into a real man. Any ideas on how to disable their missiles?"
"Hold your breath, that will shut you up for a minute, I hope. Then fly directly at them. I phase us. We phase through the missiles. Missiles go kaput. Simple. Maybe then we'll do a little chatting on who you've been watching and lusting after."
"Elegantly so," Northstar agreed, chuckling and doubled his speed as he felt his body go intangible.
Psyche, Warren, Carlos, Peter and Iceman came running into the town center, several dozen Brood trailing conspicuously behind them but reticent to attack the closer they got to town. They were visibly torn between following the prey and going back to help the Holy Mother.
"We need to get a bead on our teammates! Carlos, can you help with that?" Warren said, backing slowly into the town that was in shambles.
"Ummmm, excuse me....?" Peter tried to interrupt.
"No, my empathic senses are being dulled by the static the Brood are creating. They are more than just biological now, I believe that this Holy Mother person is entirely mystical in nature, almost a focal point of mystical energy," Carlos said, not mentioning how he was marshaling all of his psychic strength to block the rapport with Psyche and Warren for fear they would feel his Beast. The Beast not only wanted out, it wanted to join the Brood in carnage.
"We have to find the others! Kurt would've gathered a lot more information, perhaps even the way to overcome them," Psyche said.
"Excuse me?" Peter started and was cut off.
"At the rate we're rising the option of trashing the island or finding the others is whittling down. One or the other, people."
"We can't have come here to kill the others!" Warren said in frustration.
"Hey! Everyone!" Peter said calmly. "I have them."
"What? How?" Psyche said shocked.
"Your comm link things. Isn't that what they're for?" Peter smiled. "I contacted them a minute ago and gave them our location."
A moment later there was a familiar burst of brimstone and Nightcrawler appeared holding Chamber and Spike. "It is such a joy to see you though I fear the situation is out of hand! Mein gott!" Nightcrawler gasped looking at Peter.
"He's Peter's son, we'll explain later," Psyche said. "Where are Karma and Frenzy?"
Nightcrawler visibly hesitated for a moment, still transfixed by Peter who looked so much like his father. Then he turned back to his teammates intent gazes. "We've reasoned out through Chamber's telepathic senses that the Brood are in some sort of mental communion with the Holy Mother to attain a form of telekinesis. She's bonded the humans to the Brood through magic and then taught them how to focus this mental ability to lift the town."
"Kitty theorized that this is a Stargate," Warren added. "That they aren't going to fly back to their world just teleport."
"Kitty's here?" Nightcrawler said with a grin.
"Yes, she's the one I contacted when I got back from the Beyond," Peter offered.
"I'm sorry for staring, Peter. You look so much like your father and he was a cherished friend," Nightcrawler explained.
"So we have to destroy the island?" Spike asked. "We could just teleport off and let the military blow it to hell."
"That would leave thousands of Brood to rain down upon the world," Carlos reasoned.
"And you would be?" Spike asked.
"Carlos Allegra, my dear lady, the Black Bishop of the Hellfire Club," he said and gently kissed her hand. "I am the Red Queen of the Lord Cardinals, Lady Amara's, bodyguard of sorts, therefore an ally to the X- Men."
Red Queen? Chamber asked. Hellfire Club?
"Magma joined the Hellfire Club," Psyche informed them.
"Mein gott!" Nightcrawler gasped again, he'd been so distracted by the new Peter Rasputin that it took him time to register what he wasn't seeing any longer. "Warren, you have no wings!"
Warren nodded grimly. "Again another story. I'm fine though. I'll be fine."
"Any more 'mein gotts' or can we get down to business?" Psyche asked sarcastically.
"Less than a week and they've got major drama going on!" Spike chuckled.
"You don't know the half of it," Psyche grunted darkly.
"Ok, we can't attack the Brood directly because if we do, they could both slaughter us and or drop the island," Warren said looking around at the sluggish Brood who seemed to be more and more dazed the closer they got to town. "Our first priority then is locating Shan and Frenzy. Then we'll get off of this island and figure a way to obliterate it completely."
"And the innocent people the Brood took over," Iceman reminded.
"Dead, Bobby. We have to accept that. We don't have anyway to alter the transformation and the longer that we think of them as human, the longer we'll hesitate and endanger ourselves and the world below," Warren corrected.
"Air is getting thinner, guys. We don't have much time. At this rate of ascension maybe an hour or two and then we'll start to pass out," Spike said.
Talisman had been in half a dozen mystical fights before. Serious ones. Where the world was at stake but she had never fought someone with as much sheer ferocity as Holy Mother. The witch hurled eldritch bolt after eldritch bolt, never giving her a chance to do anything but erect mystical shields, to dodge the latest onslaught but not completely, thoroughly retaliate. Not that Talisman thought she could, she was being deeply drained by the energy bubble around the island, maintaining it, strengthening it was such a large scale project. She knew logically that magick had no "scale" to it, that in fact on some level she was the one causing the exhaustion because she saw the field as large versus it just being but she was still young, still inexperienced on how to perceive even her own spells. So much of her powers were instinctive, unrefined, wasn't that why she'd accepted Xavier's offer, to gather further training?
"You are strong, Indian, but my magicks are from the Stars! You will release my portal or I will crush you!" Holy Mother hissed and a blast of lava from Magma caused her to scream out and fling energy at the molten woman.
"You'll spend your time killing quite a few of us should you try to harm Elizabeth again, monster!" Magma roared dodging the eldritch assault.
"Taste my blade, witch!" Nemesis said soaring from above and slashing viciously at Holy Mother who screamed and batted her away.
Talisman focused on another spell, a spell to destroy this woman when she was struck from behind by another eldritch attack that came from the male version of Holy Mother. He was silent this time but there were hundreds of Brood following behind him. The bolt hadn't hurt her deeply but the threat was there, the Brood could consume her and right now she knew she was the only force keeping them on Earth, giving the humans trapped within some semblance of hope. She would not falter.
Magma saw the danger, but there was little she could do to help her teammates, her powers linked to the Earth required it to regenerate her powers, they were simply too high, over ten thousand feet she was sure. Other than flames and lava bolts she didn't have access to her greater earthen power lest she destroy the island itself to draw its power into her. She had very little choice, she began to draw on the small island's power, miniscule but replenishing all the same.
Both Holy Mother's reacted immediately, screaming at her and diving towards her to attack. "Kill the fiery one, she tries to destroy our land!"
Magma grinned darkly as the two figures and a sky full of Brood came towards her, exactly as she'd hoped they would. Her arms opened like an embrace and the earth at her feet swept up around her attackers, creating a rock barrier behind them and then Magma gladly released all the lava and heat she could from her body into the trapped horde.
Talisman saw her teammate's plan and lent her power to reinforce the earthen trap as Nemesis soared back and forth mercilessly slaying the Brood that tried to escape the impromptu oven.
"We have to break this spell somehow," Shadowcat said to Northstar as the two of them flew back towards the island. They had disabled dozens of missiles but it was clear that several nations were sending attack forces at the island which had begun to speed up as it ascended even faster than it had been in the few minutes they'd been present. Below them they could make out the Atlantic Ocean, the isle having cleared the South American coastline.
"Wouldn't that be Talisman's area of expertise?" Northstar grimaced.
"There's also a scientific element going on here. Head for the edges of the island, I'll phase us through and we'll disable parts of the Stargate hopefully."
"Agreed, but take a look over there! Isn't that a Shi'ar scout ship?"
Kitty saw the small ship, that looked almost like a metallic house fly with bulbous eyes and antenna. She would recognize the Shi'ar design anywhere. It was a scout ship capable of sustaining at least twenty people but it was holding back, waiting, probably for a signal on what to do. Though she wasn't sure who exactly was inside piloting it, she knew that the enmity with the Brood made them an ally, even if they were still sore about Cassandra Nova's rampage. Kitty felt a rush of both excitement and computations, strategies running through her head. The X-Men's chances had just dramatically increased. "It is! Maybe one of them came to warn us about the Brood. At least we now have a viable way to get our team off of the island when we destroy it."
Brooklyn, New York:
Eddie was in trouble. That was clear enough. The fact that he was sole responsible for brining about that trouble was something he couldn't think about right then. He had to trade something of value to stay alive. And for all of his years of scampering to have things of value: cash, gold, cars, women, these two were no interested in any of them.
"What about Paulie?" the shadowed man answered. "Word is he's a mutie. Invulnerable. That could be useful to my boss."
"Provenzano? He's running around in tights with them whackos the X- men last I heard."
"You've got one week to produce him to receive an offer from the boss or else we start taking you apart, Eddie. First your operation then your body."
"One week. Understood."
San Madre, Currently over the Atlantic Ocean:
"I can feel it powering up. I can feel it!" Peter shouted, his eyes glowing with power as he kneeled on the ground, en rapport with the Stargate itself.
"Ok, is it just me or is every in this team getting an orgasm shot from their powers except for me?" Paulie muttered.
"Is this wise, Warren? He's untested. His powers new to him," Nightcrawler said, concern etching his cerulean features.
"What choice do we have?" Warren replied though he was filled with the same skepticism.
Psyche pointed to the sky. "Looks like someone doesn't like our new plan!"
Holy Mother, the female, her robes in tatters, trailed by Talisman and Nemesis was making a beeline for them. "Do not interfere, mutant!"
"Everyone, protect Peter. Peter, rip that freaking Stargate to bits!" Psyche said, manifesting her psi bow and arrows and letting them fly at the woman.
"She's doing something to the Stargate!" Peter screamed and his entire body seemed to irradiate with first energy and then his flesh began fluxuating between the organic and the metallic, almost a coruscating effect that resembled how his father went from flesh to metal. Yet where Colossus' had ended in one form or the other, Peter's kept alternating between flesh, metal then energy.
"We leave now!" Holy Mother screamed and activated the Stargate, the circular Stargate on the circumference of the island erupting with power and then the island vanished.
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